The Crucible.

The Crucible. Our son was assigned Arthur Miller’s classic play about the seventeenth-century Salem witch trials. The timing? His AP US History teacher assigned this reading for spring break.

I thought that seemed like a pretty daunting task for spring break. So I decided to read it along with him. I was thinking that if he had to suffer, then I would suffer beside him.

I had not read the book, at least not that I remembered. (And having read it now, I didn’t remember any of it, so at least I didn’t sleep through that part of high school English.)

So what about The Crucible?

I thought the first part of the book was a bit rough and dense, with Miller’s prose setting the stage for the Puritanical society where a mere allegation can result in a hanging. Pages of background on politics and philosophy add to the challenge of getting started.

(This) predilection for minding other people’s business was time-honored among the people of Salem, and it undoubtedly created many of the suspicions which were to feed the coming madness.

the crucibleBut then it gets better. Much better. And much, much scarier.

Any book about the Salem witch trials is likely to be a bit scary. After all, people were hanged for being witches. Sounds like a Halloween story.

But what is scariest in Miller’s play is that a teen-aged girl is loved and spurned and rejected by an older, married man. She decides to speak up about her ‘visions’ and beliefs about witches. She speaks up, she accuses, and innocent people hang.

Do you know, Mr. Proctor, that the entire contention of the state in these trials is that the voice of Heaven is speaking through the children?

Yikes.

Instead of someone being innocent until proven guilty, people in Miller’s classic play are guilty once accused, and must prove their innocence. If they can, which is unlikely.

Where does the “crucible” fit in?

According to Wikipedia, the word “crucible” is defined as a container in which metals or other substances are subjected to high temperatures, or, alternatively, a severe test. Miller’s play includes not only the accusatory teenager but also adults who symbolically refuse to confess falsely to save their lives.

Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953 to spotlight the anti-communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “witch-hunts”.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!

 

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